The Old Trainer: Barking the sign of a good watchdog

October 18, 2013 

D ear Old Trainer: Shadow, my 4-year-old cocker spaniel-beagle mix, barks when anyone walks down the sidewalk or parks in front of my house. She isn’t a problem barker, but she always barks when she sees anyone in front of the house. What should I do?

– Lynn, Berkeley

Dear Lynn: Praise her, love on her and give her a treat for being a good watchdog. Then pet her and give her another treat for being smart enough to only bark when you need to know someone is approaching.

Shadow is doing a perfect job. You don’t want a dog that never barks, you want a dog that barks a warning when a stranger approaches, then stops. That bark not only alerts you, it warns a stranger to avoid your house because Shadow is keeping an eye on things.

It takes a long time to teach that to a dog, and Shadow figured it out on her own. Good dog, Shadow.

Dear Old Trainer: Polo, my white poodle, has tear stains on both eyes that leave brown marks. I wipe her eyes all the time, but the marks are still there, about half an inch long on each eye. Are they dangerous and how do I stop them?

– Erin, Mill Valley

Dear Erin: First, take Polo to your vet to make sure there is nothing wrong with her eyes. If your vet tells you Polo’s eyes are healthy then the stains are merely a cosmetic problem – pigment in the tears causing the hair to be discolored.

When that happens with one of my dogs I ignore it. It is natural for a dog’s eyes to water. It doesn’t bother the dog, so why should it bother me?

And what is the alternative if you do want to do something? Every vet I know prescribes steroids or antibiotics to treat the problem.

I apply the same rule to my dogs I apply to myself – never take any drug unless it is necessary to maintain health. I advise you to follow the same rule with Polo.

Dear Old Trainer: You always advise adopting dogs from rescue or shelters, and I am thinking about it, but a guy at work says if you adopt a rescue dog you just adopt someone’s mistake.

– Darryl, Sacramento

Dear Darryl: That statement is absurd. There is not a single fact that supports such a clueless statement.

Rescue dogs are just like all other dogs – wonderful, loving and smart companions.

And there is a special quality found only in rescue dogs. They know you saved them, and they develop a special bond.

Visit your local shelter and let a dog adopt you, Darryl. You’ll see what I mean.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to theoldtrainer@gmail.com.

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service